Rocky Mountain National Park: Boulder Brook to Glacier Gorge
Rushing waterfalls, mountainous views, and a healthy dose of altitude highlight this 6.3-mile loop in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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This 6.3-mile shuttle hike south of Moraine Park links the Boulder Brook and Glacier Gorge trails and can be completed in either direction. Start at the Storm Pass Trailhead off of Bear Lake Road for a shorter but steeper climb and a more gradual descent. From the small parking area, hike south through a grassy meadow rimmed by conifers and rocky peaks. After half a mile, the trail enters the forest and begins climbing alongside (and crisscrossing) Boulder Brook.
Tree cover becomes sparse near the top of the climb as the trail nears the junction with North Longs Peak Trail. In autumn, golden aspen groves create a striking contrast with the evergreen forest. After 2.4 miles, Boulder Brook Trail dead ends at North Longs Peak Trail; turn right and start the gentle descent to Glacier Gorge. (Stunning views of the park’s snow-capped peaks appear between the gaps in the trees.)
At mile 4.5, cross over Glacier Creek on a wooden bridge—grab your camera, the rushing creek pours through a rocky gorge below the bridge. From here, the trail snakes to the north, passing Alberta Falls, one of the park’s more popular (and accessible) spots waterfalls. At the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, take the free shuttle to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, cross the road, and follow the path back to Storm Pass Trailhead.
INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm
PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm
CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo
-Mapped by Backpacker’s Map Team
- Distance: 10.1
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From the small parking area at the Storm Pass Trailhead, head south through a grassy meadow rimmed by conifers.
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Continue straight @ 3-way junction.
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Cross Glacier Creek on a wooden bridge.
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Keep right @ 3-way junction.
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Continue straight @ 4-way, heading south.
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Pass a cascading waterfall on the left side of the trail. More climbing ahead.
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Cross the first of three stream crossings in the next 0.5 mile.
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The forested lower reaches of the trail give way to several meadows filled with young trees.
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Continue straight @ 3-way junction with Boulder Brook Campsite #2. A similar spur trail to Campsite #1 is 200 yards up the trail.
Location: 40.288944, -105.617493
Turn right onto North Longs Peak Trail @ T-junction. A group campsite (with privy and bear boxes) is located straight ahead.
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This split-log bridge makes an easy crossing of the Boulder Brook tributary (the water source for the group campground uphill).
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Along this gentle downhill section, you’ll catch views of the entire valley and the Glacier Gorge Trailhead below and to the right.
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A wooden bridge spans this deep, gushing gorge and connects to a slickrock-like section of trail before jogging left.
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Admire the valley views at the rest stop just before the 3-way junction. From here, it’s just 1.7 miles to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
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Stop at this overlook for far-reaching views across the valley.
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Alberta Falls is a highlight of this route and a turn-around point for many day hikers who started at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
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Heading downstream, the trail skirts the log-jammed river. Stop for an upstream peek at several tumbling cascades as you head downhill.
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A few user-created trails lead to the edge of a deep ravine. Stick to the main trail: overgrowth and tree-cover make for a less than spectacular scene.
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Cross the stream on a bridge. There is another crossing a few-hundred feet ahead.
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Pass a wooden barrier on your right before turning east @ the 3-way junction. Follow signs to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
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Continue straight @ 3-way junction.
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This bridge marks the end of a rock-step descent.
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The long descent ends near a rock-walled section of trail near the parking area and shuttle bus stop.
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Glacier Gorge Trailhead: Take the free shuttle to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, cross the road, and follow the path back to Storm Pass Trailhead.
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North Longs Peak Trail
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Views of the Park
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Glacier Gorge Trailhead
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